Writing Violence in Literary Fiction and Creative Nonfiction: Are Your Violent Scenes Essential or Gratuitous?

How do we transcend the cliched and gratuitous fight scene when writing violence? How do we create a scene that will engage smart readers in critical, aware and rigorous ways? Writing violence in literary narratives is no different than any other scene, really. It is all about focusing on the character as unique. In this Writing Violence Workshop, we will explore scenes from Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Alice Munro’s “Runaway” and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings as character focused violence in literary fiction and creative nonfiction.

Writing Violence Goals

    • Identify the difference between writing gratuitous violence and writing essential violence within literature;
    • Identify language that elicits smart context within violent scenarios;
    • Explore the characters as human, flawed and unique;
    • Develop character-rich tensions within scenarios.

Writing Violence Course Format

Each week, you will have access to a new lesson. Work at your own pace. When you are ready for individualized feedback—developmental, line and end notes—from one of our faculty members, submit your work. Instructors have graduate degrees and professional publication experience in their workshop focuses. Participants may complete assignments anytime. We are open to English-speaking and writing participants both locally and globally and encourage gender and ethnic diversity in our workshops. 

Writing Violence Course Materials

Additional & Suggested Materials

Contributing Faculty

Rae Bryant, writing violence workshopRae Bryant is the author of the short story collection, The Indefinite State of Imaginary Morals. Her fiction, prose-poetry and essays have appeared in print and online at The Paris Review, The Missouri Review, Diagram, StoryQuarterly, McSweeney’s, New World Writing, Gargoyle Magazine, and Redivider, among other publications and have been nominated for the Pen/Hemingway, Pen Emerging Writers, &NOW Award and Pushcart Prize. She has won awards in fiction from Whidbey Writers and The Johns Hopkins University. She earned a Masters in Writing from Hopkins where she continues to teach creative writing and is editor in chief of The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review. She has also taught in the International Writing Program at The University of Iowa. She is represented by Jennifer Carlson of Dunow, Carlson and Lerner.

Why Online Writing Workshops?

Online writing workshops present the best of both worlds for creative writers: creative isolation and craft interaction. The New Yorker article by Louis Menand, “Show or Tell: Should Creative Writing be Taught?” proposes the perennial question of whether or not writers can be taught or must be born. Our stance at The Eckleburg Workshops is that writers can be shown many craft writing skills and be encouraged to explore voice through the practice of these skills as well as the observation of these skills in both master and developing narratives. It is our stance that creative writing can be sculpted and nurtured and is best taught by published authors and experienced writing teachers. This is what we give you in each and every writing course and in our One on One individualized manuscript sessions.

One on One Creative Writing Workshop

One on One Workshops | Fiction, Essay, Prose Poetry, Rae Bryant

Welcome to the One on One Creative Writing Workshop. Thank you for trusting us with your words. We look forward to reading your creative writing: fiction, short story, short short story, flash fiction, creative nonfiction or prose poetry. In this workshop, you will work individually with a published author, editor and creative writing professor in your work’s discipline. You will receive developmental edits, line edits, end comments and a Zoom workshop that will focus on your authentic voice, your original intentions and the work’s strengths and needs.

Submit Your Fiction, Essay, Prose Poetry or Excerpt

This may be a shorter creative writing work–short story, flash fiction, prose poetry, excerpt–or it could be a longer work–collection, novel or memoir. We look forward to reading your words.

One on One Creative Writing Workshop Timeline

Each one on one creative writing workshop will focus individually on you and your work. Developmental edits, line edits and end notes will focus on your authentic voice and intentions. We will return your manuscript with developmental edits and line edits as well as a final narrative comment on overall strengths, needs and impressions within an agreed upon time frame, usually two weeks to a month, depending upon the length of the work. After you have a few days to review the editorial suggestions and comments, we will schedule a short phone chat to discuss.

Creative Writing Workshop Methods

Each work has its own strengths and needs, successes and focus areas. We approach each new work with an eye toward individual voice so that the work can take on a life of its own that focuses on your intentions. Below, you’ll find a link for submission guidelines and submitting your manuscript. As we move through your work, we’ll look at the following:

    • What is the intention for the work, as communicated on the page and as is essential to the main characters?
    • What is the authentic voice of the narrator, and how can this be brought out thoroughly and to the work’s best interest?
    • What is your authentic voice and how can this be coupled with the needs of the narrative voice?
    • Developmentally, how can the character arcs and the overall narrative be brought to fuller realization?
    • Linguistically, how does the cadence, syntax and repetition in language support the overall artistry of the piece? 
    • Mechanically, are the choices being made in the overall best interest of the authentic narrative voice?
    • What can be strengthened from word choice and comma usage?

Thank you for joining us at The Eckleburg Workshops. We promise to honor your hard work and talents.

About Rae Bryant

Rae Bryant - Creative Writing WorkshopRae Bryant is the author of the short story collection, The Indefinite State of Imaginary Morals. Her stories, essays, and poetry have appeared in print and online at The Paris ReviewThe Missouri  ReviewMcSweeneysDIAGRAMNorth American Review, Gargoyle and more. Her work has won prizes, scholarships and fellowships from Johns Hopkins, American University, Aspen Writers Foundation, VCCA and Whidbey Writers and has been nominated for the Pen/Hemingway, Pen Emerging Writers, &NOW Award, Lorian Hemingway, and Pushcart. She is the founding editor of Eckleburg. She earned an M. A. in Writing from Johns Hopkins and an M. F. A. from American University, where she received the Starr and Sartwell scholarships. She is represented by Jennifer Carlson with Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency.

“Rae was so thoughtful, insightful, and helpful—her feedback was invaluable to me. Thank you!” — Lia V.
“Rae did a great job working through my manuscript. She paid close attention to detail and was very helpful in providing both structural and narrative perspective. She was prompt and observant and allowed me to talk through the course of the book, pushing back with substantial knowledge of the characters and the readability of the novel as a whole. Highly recommend her services.” — Jim C.
“Rae will give you thorough notes and valuable insight to help you improve your piece and your writing skills. Highly recommended.” — Nick V.

“Rae has improved my writing immensely. She understands the craft on a very deep level. She’s always encouraging (even through the doubtful, dreadful moments that anyone that is serious about this craft will feel). I can’t thank her enough. If you want to grow beyond what you thought was possible for yourself — Rae will help get you there.” — Luis C.

“Rae was wonderfully helpful. I do feel that my story is stronger now thanks to her comments. I like when editors actually speak with you either over the phone or face to face, and she did. I think I got more out of it that way.” — Ryan O.


[Em]Powering the Self Workshop: Fiction, Poetry, Creative Nonfiction and Hybrid Narratives

Welcome to the “[Em]Powering the Self Workshop.” This gender and diversity narrative project takes its title from Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman but it does not stop at gender. This workshop is open to all forms: fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction and hybrid. It is open to all genders, identities and backgrounds. In this course we will explore how progressive experiences with cultures, both our own and others, inform our voice in both the artistic expression of voice and the voice we give to self. It is our intention to give power over self, not others. Following Wollstonecraft’s example:

I do not wish them to have power over men; but over themselves. —Mary Wollstonecraft

We will excavate self, explore self and then express self through narratological study: how our understanding of themes, conventions and symbols can siphon as well as invigorate voice. Focal criticisms will be feminism, postmodernism, Marxism, Jungian theory, gender studies/queer theory and a bit of neoformalism. Affiliate study as part of American University LIT-643 Feminism and Fiction (Professor Rubenstein) and LIT-700 Advanced Fiction Workshop (Professor Perkins-Valdez). 

[Em]Powering the Self Workshop Description

In this workshop, we’ll add additional “writing the other” resources to our writers’ toolboxes. We’ll consider our authentic voices and how these voices affect not only narrative perspective, but also our characters’/subjects’ arcs and origins. Finally, we will consider how your own origins and social evolutions can serve our voices in extraordinary and honest ways, while also, and let us not forget, considering and respecting the issues of cultural appropriation within art forms. In this writing workshop, our intention is to support self and others more deeply so to create stronger voices and narrative conversations with our readers and our communities.

[Em]Powering the Self Writing Goals

This workshop is a collaborative work between several Eckleburg faculty and authors with the intention of helping you explore your literary strengths and needs with an eye on organic voice. The specific goals of this workshop are:

  • To identify and read exemplary works as a foundational study so to define both your organic voice and writing beyond self;
  • To foster regular writing habits so to exercise and strengthen your organic voice;
  • To generate new drafts of work that encompass your artistic and human foundations;
  • To read and revise your work with a critical eye so you can revise and make it as strong as it can be;
  • To help you further strengthen your knowledge of form and to provide you with the environment to better understand your individual voice so you can apply this to future works;
  • To help you learn and improve on the techniques of writing, self-editing and writing beyond self so that you are aware of your preferred forms and boundaries and be able to consider how you might push your preferred forms into your best craft.

[Em]Powering the Self Materials

  • Aciman, Andre. “Shadow Cities.”
  • Adam Zagajewski. “Self-Portrait.”
  • Apollinaire, Guillaume. (trans. by Donald Revell) “Zone.”
  • Beauvoir, Simone de. The Second Sex. Translated by Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier, Vintage  Books, 2009. 
  • Beauvoir, Simone de. The Second Sex. Translated by H. M. Parshley, Vintage Books, 1989.
  • Blake Shelton. “Boys ‘Round Here.” Based on a True Story…, Ten Point Productions, Inc., 2013, YouTube, youtube.com/embed/JXAgv665J14.
  • Cairns, Scott. “Homeland of the Foreign Tongue.”
  • Chadwick, Whitney. Women, Art and Society: Fifth Edition. Thames & Hudson. 2012.
  • Cruz, Victor Hernández (for Joe Bataan). “Latin & Soul.”
  • Darwish, Mahmoud. “Who Am I, Without Exile?“
  • De Pizan, Christine. The Book of the City of Ladies. 1405.
  • Didion, Joan. “On Self-Respect: Its Source, Its Power.”
  • Dixie Chicks. “Goodbye Earl.” Fly, Sony Music Entertainment Inc., 1999. YouTube, youtube.com/embed/Gw7gNf_9njs.
  • Gilman, Richard. “The Man Behind the Feminist Bible.” The New York Times, 22 May 1988, nytimes.com/1988/05/22/books/the-man-behind-the-feminist-bible.html. Accessed 4 Sept. 2017.
  • Greenberg, Arielle and Rachel Zucker. “On My Poetry Mentors.”
  • Hikmet, Nazim. “On Living.”
  • Ibsen, Henrik. A Dolls’ House. 1879.
  • Kafka, Franz. “Metamorphosis.”
  • Kearney, Meg. “Creed.”
  • Kincaid, Jamaica. “Girl.”
  • Koppelman, Susan. Women in the TreesBeacon Press. 1996.
  • Koppelman, Susan and Alix Kates Shulman. Women in the Trees: U. S. Women’s Short Stories About Battering and Resistance, 1839-2000 (American Women’s Stories Project)2004.
  • Levine, Phillip. “What Work Is.”
  • Márquez, Gabriel García. “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.”
  • Masson, André. Le génie de l’espèce (The Genius of the Species). 1942, drypoint and engraving, The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
  • Menand, Louis. “Stand by Your Man: The Strange Liaison Between Sartre and Beauvoir.” The New Yorker, 26 Sept. 2005, newyorker.com/magazine/2005/09/26/stand-by-your-man. Accessed 2 Sept. 2017.
  • Morrison, Toni. Beloved.
  • Neruda, Pablo. (trans. by Robert Bly) “Walking Around.”
  • Nye, Naomi Shihab. “Blood.“
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson. “On Self-Reliance.”
  • Šalamun, Tomaž. (trans. by Brian Henry) “Ships.”
  • Shawl, Nisi and Cynthia Ward. Writing the Other.
  • Shelly, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus1818. Norton Critical Addition. 2012.
  • Shelton, Blake. Boys ‘Round Here.” 
  • Simic, Charles (for Octavio Paz). “In the Library.”
  • Simic, Charles. “Cameo Apparence.”
  • “Simone de Beauvoir: Journalist, Women’s Rights Activist, Academic, Activist, Philosopher (1908–1986).” Biography, 28 Apr. 2017, biography.com/people/simone-de-beauvoir-9269063. Accessed 2 Sept. 2017.
  • Society for the Study of American Women Writers (SSAWW). 2000.
  • Toyen. Dívčí sen II (A Girl Dream II). 1932. zincography and aquarelle, The ART Gallery, Chrudim.
  • Trethewey, Natasha. “Elegy.”
  • Williams, Diane. “The Dog.”
  • Williams, Diane. “The Man.”
  • Wollstonecraft, Mary.  A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. 1792.
  • Wollstonecraft, Mary. Maria: or, The Wrongs of Woman. 1798.
  • Woolf, Virginia. Orlando.
  • Young, Kevin. “After Loss, Turning To Poetry For Grief And Healing.”

[Em]Powering the Self Contributors

Born to a Mexican mother and Jewish father, Rosebud Ben-Oni is a recipient of the 2014 NYFA Fellowship in Poetry and a CantoMundo Fellow. She was a Rackham Merit Fellow at the University of Michigan, a Horace Goldsmith Scholar at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a graduate of the Women’s Work Lab at New Perspectives Theater in NYC. She is the author of SOLECISM (Virtual Artists Collective, 2013) and an Editorial Advisor for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. Her work appears in POETRY, The American Poetry Review, Arts & Letters, Bayou, Puerto del Sol, among others. She writes weekly for The Kenyon Review

Rae Bryant is the author of the short story collection, The Indefinite State of Imaginary Morals. Her stories, essays and prose poetry have appeared in print and online at  The Paris Review, The Missouri Review, Diagram, StoryQuarterly, McSweeney’s, New World Writing, Gargoyle Magazine, and Redivider, among other publications and have been nominated for the Pen/Hemingway, Pen Emerging Writers, &NOW Award and Pushcart Prize. She has won awards in fiction from Whidbey Writers and The Johns Hopkins University as well as fellowships from the VCCA and Hopkins to write, study and teach in Florence, Italy. She earned a Masters in Writing from Hopkins where she continues to teach creative writing and is editor in chief of The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review. She has also taught in the International Writing Program at The University of Iowa. Rae is the director of The Eckleburg Workshops. She has a Bachelors in Humanities from Penn State with a concentration in Eduction and English Literature, minors in Art, History and Philosophy. Rae is a member of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, AWP, NBCC, NOW, NAACP and CLMP She is represented by Jennifer Carlson of Dunow, Carlson and Lerner.

Kalisha Buckhanon’s novels are Conception and Upstate. Her writing awards include an American Library Association Alex Award, Friends of American Writers Award and Illinois Arts Council Fellowship. She and her work have been featured in EssencePeopleGuardianLondon Independent on SundayMosaic Literary MagazineColorlinesBlogHerxoJaneMichigan Quarterly ReviewHermeneutic Chaos, Winter Tangerine ReviewAtticus Review and more. She has taught creative writing, humanities and English through PEN American Center’s Prison Writing Program, Kankakee Community College and many inner-city schools programs, summer arts camps and library initiatives. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Sisters in Crime, with appearances for the group as an on-air commentator on Investigation Discovery Channel’s “Deadly Affairs.” Kalisha has an M.F.A in Creative Writing from The New School in New York City, and a B.A. and M.A. in English Language and Literature both from University of Chicago.

Adam Klein — author, musician (The Size Queens) and professor — recently completed his second Fulbright Senior Scholarship at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur. During his previous Fulbright fellowship he taught at the University of Mumbai and North Bengal University. Klein’s first book, The Medicine Burns, is a collection of short stories that was nominated for a Lambda Book Award; selections from which appear in Best American Gay Fiction and Men on Men 5 which was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award for Fiction Anthologies. He is also the author of the novel Tiny Ladies. In a review The London Observerwrote that Tiny Ladies is “an engrossing and beautifully written book,” and Kirkus Reviewsdescribed it as “a bizarre combination of Dostoevsky, Jim Thompson, and Robert Altman.” An early excerpt of Tiny Ladies appeared in the anthology Pills, Thrills, Chills and Heartache: Adventures in the First Person, edited by Michelle Tea and Clint Catalyst. Both The Medicine Burns and Tiny Ladies are now part of Dzanc Books’ rEprint series. His short form work has also appeared in such literary journals as Your Impossible Voice, Pank, Educe, and Fiction International,among others. More recently, his short story “A Hardship Post,” published in Fourteen Hills, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Rania MoudaressARTIST | Born in Damascus, Rania Moudaress graduated from the École Supérieure des Arts et Mode in Paris as well as from the Paris American Academy of Fashion and Art. She also holds a degree from the Higher Institute of Drama and Music in Damascus . Her work explores the link between womanhood and nature, and the gap between dreams and reality. Her artworks are characterized by lines delicately constructed and the use of natural elements mixed with human faces or body parts.